By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa
Live Review: Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band – Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, FL-September 16, 2022
I have been waiting forever for Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band (RSASB) to return to Clearwater, Florida. He last performed at Ruth Eckerd Hall in 2014 so I was pretty stoked when I heard he was returning in June 2020. Thanks to COVID—and even more delays (June 2021 and June 2022) due to related issues—I finally saw the band perform on September 16, 2022. Rushing to the venue on a Friday during after-work traffic (and not stopping to refuel the car), I would not take a chance on missing a second of this event. Even more importantly, this was the first time I had ever seen a Beatle.
Whilst I stood at the soundboard, ready to snap my camera, Starr walked out on stage wearing his tinted glasses, dark hair and beard, looking extremely fit for 82 years old. Trim and stylishly dressed, he could easily pass for someone 20 years his junior. Holding up his hands using the peace sign, he greeted the audience which roared with applause. Every single seat in the venue, which holds a little over 2,000, was filled with a patron.
Not only was there an ex-Beatle in the house, but a stellar lineup of leaders of classic bands spanning the 70s and 80s—Steve Lukather (Toto), Colin Hay (Men At Work), Gregg Bissonette (David Lee Roth), Hamish Stuart (Average White Band/Paul McCartney), Edgar Winter (Edgar Winter Group), and Warren Ham (Toto/RSASB). Each member of the band is a ‘starr’ in their own right.
The evening begin with the classic 50s song “Matchbox” made famous by Carl Perkins, an early influence of the Beatles. Starr’s breakout 1971 hit “It Don’t Come Easy” was next, bringing everyone to their feet. The band sounded full, his voice was on point—and it sounded like listening to the 45 rpm record on my turntable. My mind time-traveled back to the carefree memories of childhood in the 70s and last year, sitting on the Magical Mystery Tour bus in Liverpool. I remember the tour guide pointing to the Empress Pub, where his mum worked during his youth and featured in his album Sentimental Journey.
As the evening proceeded, each band member showcased the hits from their original bands. Steve Lukather performed “Rosanna”, Colin Hay performed “Down Under”, Edgar Winter performed “Frankenstein”, and Hamish Stewart performed “Pick Up the Pieces”. As hit after hit was performed, I was listening to the “jukebox of my life.”
And the musical renditions were not like a typical live performance where the vocals fall flat or sound different to the sound-engineered radio version we are accustomed to hearing. I was sitting in a room with some of the best musicians in the world doing what they do best—perform their original music. The music was full, fleshed-out, and orchestral, creating a total immersive experience. With Winter killing it on the keys; Ham jumping between sax solos with him, playing the flute, or percussion; Bissonette and Starr double-drumming; and Hays harmonizing on vocals, it was a musical feast of aural delight.
Some highlights need to be mentioned. Let’s start with “Frankenstein”, which was phenomenal. Winter reminded us that he was the first artist to strap on a keyboard. He adeptly switched between keyboard to sax and a row full of snares as he dueted with Bissonette at the end of the song. It turned into an all-out jam session—a true collaboration between all the band members. Hay’s version of “Down Under” was a bit slower in tempo than the original but its orchestral richness and spot on vocals likely superseded it. Stuart’s “Cut the Cake” showcased Winter and Ham on saxophone, and Lukather’s “Africa” had everyone standing and singing. Actually, throughout the evening, songs earned standing ovations and one could see concert goers mouthing the lyrics to every beloved song. In fact, this girl was hoarse at the end of the evening.
Highlights were Starr chatting between songs in his familiar Liverpudlian accent I so often heard watching Beatles’ films and their Saturday morning cartoons. After performing “Back Off Boogaloo” he thanked the audience saying, “That you for liking it.” He dedicated “I Wanna Be Your Man” to the women saying, “to all the ladies in the house—this is for you”, bringing us back mentally to the early-60s (or at least watching the recent documentary The Beatles: Get Back).
Since Winter (and of course, the Beatles) were influenced by Chuck Berry, he performed his version of “Johnny B. Goode”, dedicating it to his late brother Johnny Winter. He added, “Even though he is not here on this physical plane, his spirit lives on in my heart forever.”
I waited all night to hear another Starr favorite “Photograph”, which warmed my heart as childhood memories simmered in my brain. The melody is cheerful yet the lyrics are poignant and sentimental. As Starr sang the show closer “With a Little Help From My Friends”, this stirred many emotions for me since it was the song used in a video montage I made in 1994. I videotaped a party of fellow high school friends—one who was diagnosed with AIDS—before he became too sick to be photographed. I gave it to his parents after he passed.
Truly the evening and the whole theme of Ringo and His All-Starr Band is collaboration and “friends”. Even at 82 he shares his love of friendship, music, and message of “peace” with audiences throughout the world. And what a gift it is was last night.
Magical Mystery Tour Snippet